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Proposed law protects public workers from an OSHA violation


In Massachusetts, workers who are injured might believe that they are protected by a variety of laws providing them workers' compensation benefits and that any violation for safety would be investigated based on federal laws under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. That, however, is not the case for public sector workers. Currently, workers in the public sector are bound by the standards that state and local governments set. For a work accident victim or those who are concerned about dangerous conditions on the job, this can be problematic.

Changes could be on the horizon for public sector workers so they would be granted the same protections against an OSHA violation and an OSHA investigation can be conducted if an accident does happen. Private sector workers are protected by the standards that OSHA accords them. The same cannot be said for those who are working in the public sector. In 2014, the law was changed for those in the state executive branch to be protected by OSHA. That does not filter to other workers employed by various cities and the state.

The OSHA regulations are important because they establish standards for workers to be protected against chemical and mechanical dangers while on the job. There have been demands to make this change for a while. The law passed the state senate in 2016, but nothing more was done. The House will determine when the vote will take place. More than half of the states in the union have approved these same protections being given to public workers. In Massachusetts, serious injuries happen to an average of 28 workers every week and they keep them from working for five days. Workers who are more seriously injured will miss more time.

Along with the extension of the safety standards, the governor would be responsible for appointing a Municipal Occupational Health and Safety Subcommittee to work with the Occupational Health and Safety Hazard Advisory Board. Its responsibility would be evaluating data, suggesting changes for safety and health, watching how effective the programs are, and deciding if more are needed. This proposed law can be important for public sector workers who are injured on the job as an OSHA investigation can be important to determine how an accident or illness came about and could be vital to a workers' compensation case. Regardless of the fate of this law, those who suffer workplace injuries or illness should consult with a legal professional experienced in helping clients with their workers' compensation benefits.

Source: masslive.com, "Massachusetts Senate bill would extend OSHA safety standards to all public workers," Shira Schoenberg, Oct. 9, 2017

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